New York

Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid

Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid are really funny and really brave. They are smart as only middlemen can be. They play with notions of art and nationalism. They are comedians of an absurd situation: police-state citizens allowed to tune into news of the art world. The risk they take makes the really accomplished Gilbert & George look effete. These Russian artists, who work as one sensibility, maraud through art history inventing, parodying, and tipping over every icon, Eastern and Western, they can get their mitts on.

They improve Pop art with their blowtorch burnt offerings. Indiana has never looked so good, Post-Art no. 3 (Indiana), Circle, Square, and Triangle, 1975, actually made concrete implicit Suprematist longings. The false autobiography of one Nikolai Buchunov is a delicious prose piece, and the accompanying landscape with part of the artist’s nose visible, since he is one-eyed, is a perfectly realized conceptual project.

Komar and Melamid are a natural resource that must be allowed to survive in their native habitat. Their vision depends on the foolishness of all establishments. One wants to embrace them, clap for them, and defend them. They remind us of Gogol and Isaac Babel, who exhorted their fellow writers to silence, in the face of official hypocrisy, and disappeared forever. These artists must remain visible!

The Russians are now engaged in doing a year-long collaborative piece (photographs) with Douglas Davis, who originally brought them to the attention of the Ronald Feldman Gallery. This cross-fertilization may prove helpful in more ways than one to their continued presence.

Sherman Drexler